THE BLOG
01/09/2015 04:36 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Revisiting Kafka's Castle in New Turkey

ADEM ALTAN via Getty Images

In his famous novel The Castle, Kafka takes a satirical look at the inscrutable bureaucratic autocracy where the protagonist K unavailingly struggles to gain access to the Castle. Located at the top of a hill as the symbol of the unapproachable power, the Castle represents the ultimate authority of the state apparatus over residents. Those who have even a remote link to the Castle are regarded as honorable segment of the society. For instance girls who are selected as a mistress of an ordinary public servant are admired.

2015-01-08-kafkacastle.jpg

People, conditioned to obey the rules, do not exactly know what's going on in the Castle and who precisely rules the country. It is unthinkable that the self-evident Castle makes a mistake but a useless job offer to K was an apparent error, revealing the inefficiency of the Castle's bureaucratic order. Disclosure of this simple weakness in fact was a major threat for the existence of complex structure of the Castle. The novel explains K's experience in a deluded society and his struggle with the authority.

AK Saray Casts Shadow over the Country

In today's Turkey, the controversial 1150-room palace of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, dubbed AK Saray, is no less than Kafka's Castle in terms of its absurdity. Perched on a hilltop in Bestepe, or Five Hills, district of the capital city Ankara, AK Saray represents the ultimate state authority violating separation of powers principle of the country, a parliamentary democracy.

2015-01-08-erdoganaksaray1.jpg

Erdogan unveiled his new palace.

Just like Kafka's Castle controls the entire village, the AK Saray casts its shadow over the country. The edifice, which costs more than 600 million dollars, was initially planned as the prime minister's office. As Mr. Erdogan was elected as president in August this year, all of a sudden and with no hesitation, the AK Saray became the office of the president despite 91-years-old tradition of the Turkish state that all the presidents resided in Cankaya Palace since Kemal Ataturk, the founder of the republic.

2015-01-08-erdoganaksaray2.jpg

The new presidential palace in Ankara costs for nearly $600 million.

President Erdogan also wants citizens to appreciate his omnipotence and show reverence in front of this prestige building. That's why AK Saray is generously illuminated throughout the year to urge people to gaze in awe at the magnificence of the glorious structure even at night.

2015-01-08-erdoganaksaray5.jpg

Erdogan's palace dominates capital Ankara by night.

Non-Separation of Powers

As he designed his former AK Party and appointed Mr. Ahmet Davutoglu as prime minister, Mr. Erdogan gained full control over the executive power. Thanks to his majority in the parliament, Mr. Erdoğan also designed the judiciary and high courts with intricate changes in laws. Once a court happened to stop and ban the construction of AK Saray declaring that the property is protected by law as green area and it is the heritage of Ataturk, Mr. Erdogan challenged the judiciary saying "If you have the power and courage, then come and demolish the building."

2015-01-08-erdoganaksaray4.jpg

The controversial palace has become a potent symbol for critics of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

Media, trade associations, labor unions, universities, kindergartens, banks, independent regulatory bodies, charities and even football clubs are not exempt from his thirst for control. The sturdy resident of the AK Saray is poised to regulate the daily lives of people to the extent that how many children should one have and the use of condoms.

Now the country struggles under a bureaucratic autocracy of the AK Saray just like in Kafka's The Castle. AK Saray takes any harmless criticism as a major threat to its existence and puts journalists, screen writers and even 16-year-old school boys to jail. Apparently, the more the authority of the castle weakens, the more it raises pressure.

Parallel State in AK Saray

Resident of AK Saray has to be non-partisan due to his presidential oath but he regularly mingles in daily politics. Every other day, mouthpieces in government controlled media blurt out a brand new order from AK Saray just like Kafka's messengers of the Castle. According to a new order from AK Saray, President Erdogan will chair the cabinet on 19 January, 2015. Current rules and regulations entail the prime minister to chair the cabinet, not the president. The president would chair the cabinet only in war or crisis times.

2015-01-08-erdoganaksaray33.jpg

For price of palace, Turkey's Erdogan could have stopped Ebola.

Besides, Mr. Erdoğan established a parallel state in AK Saray to control every step of his former government. President Erdoğan formed 14 new executive offices within the AK Saray as a shadow cabinet reflecting, or let me say replicating, the most important ministries of the government. For instance, in case a private company applies for a construction permit to the local authority or for a mining license to prime ministry, it has to wait for the last decision to come from AK Saray.

So welcome to Mr. Erdogan's Castle.